5 Tech Pros Share The Advice They Wish They Knew Starting Out

Hindsight is such a crazy concept. Having the knowledge that I have now could have been SO incredibly helpful (and, let’s be honest, saved me from some embarrassing situations) when I was younger. Not only could I have avoided small slip-ups, like dressing in a full suit on my first day of a job that called for casual attire, but I also could have handled a variety of workplace situations better — or at the very least, been more prepared for particular scenarios.

As frustrating as it can be to think of what could have been, it’s equally important to take what you know now and apply it to your future professional goals. A great way to find out more about what could be possible for you in the workplace and beyond is by learning from other people’s experiences. Especially for women in STEM, it's important to learn from those who came before you. One of the biggest roadblocks for women in STEM is the idea that the tech industry just isn’t welcoming to women. Numbers back up this mentality: A 2016 PayScale survey found that more than 50 percent of respondents believe gender inequality is a problem in the workplace.

To help deal with preexisting fears about the tech industry, we partnered with Dice, your go-to resource for discovering opportunities, insights, and connections in technology, to ask six women to share what they wish they had known before their first year on the job.

1. I Wish I Knew To Be More Confident

Nicole Kelner

“You are not an imposter. I think I was constantly insecure that everyone around me was an expert, and I was not. There is always more to learn, but this does not mean you aren't qualified."

— Nicole Kelner, co-founder & COO of The Coding Space

2. I Wish I Hadn’t Been So Hard On Myself

Suzie Nieman

“Impostor syndrome is no joke, especially as a woman entering a male-dominated field. Be aware of when you are putting yourself down, and work on lifting yourself up instead. Realize that NO ONE has it 100 percent figured out. The technology we use is constantly changing and new products are launched every single day. This means that even those with 10 years of experience in the industry are constantly learning and growing their skills to stay competitive. Don't be so hard on yourself — you're more qualified than you think.

"And don't be afraid to ask for help! So much of what I have learned over the last few years has been a direct result of not understanding something at work, learning what I could on the Internet, and then asking a colleague to sit down with me and spend 30 minutes explaining a concept before letting me ask questions.”

Suzie Nieman, Web Developer and Project Manager

3. I Wish I Had Taken More Risks

Andrea Cannistra

“I wish I had been more open to taking professional risks. Risk can really help you learn if you let it challenge you and in that process you’ll get even better from it. Early on, I stayed with safe jobs, but as I’ve gotten older I can really see the value of just challenging yourself.”

Andrea Cannistra, Interactive Designer at Ringling College of Art & Design, Co-Founder of Girl Develop It Tampa Bay

4. I Wish I Knew How Much My Online Persona Mattered

Cecy Correa

“Getting a job in tech is unlike getting a job in any other field because your online persona matters tremendously. Most people I see applying for jobs in tech nowadays lack an online presence, and that can hurt your chances of getting callbacks. You can increase your chances of getting that first job in tech by making sure your online presence reflects who you want to be professionally. They say to dress for the job you want, but I say you should blog for the job you want.

"Leveraging the power of a personal blog can make a huge difference when you’re searching for that first tech job. If you’re just starting your career, chances are you don’t have as much experience yet, but you still need to show competency. Blogging about what you’re learning, projects you’re working on in your spare time, or how you would redesign a website you like, can show a potential employer your thought process when you lack more tangible experience.”

— Cecy Correa, Software Engineer at ReturnPath

5. I Wish I Had Asked For What I Deserved

Dona Sarkar

“I’ve learned to get comfortable asking for what you want. Because you definitely won’t get it if you don’t ask. NO ONE can read your mind, it turns out. For example, I learned early in my career to negotiate the terms of employment. I overheard four other new hires at my first job out of college talking about using their sign-on bonus to buy cars. I remember thinking to myself, 'What’s a sign-on bonus?' It was a hard lesson.

"Now, I’m a negotiation master, and just last week, I helped a more senior male friend negotiate for a higher stock option at his new job — but it took me a long time to get there. You have to remember that people almost feel cheated if you don’t negotiate. They feel like they could have gotten away with giving you less if you are always just happy with what is offered. Ask for things!”

— Dona Sarkar, Chief Windows Insider Program Lead at Microsoft

This post is sponsored by Dice